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Owners determined to cut crewing costs as talks continue
17 July 2009

Shipowners are ready to stick to their demands for a reduction in crewing costs at key industry wage negotiations.

The International Maritime Employers Committee (Imec) representing employers of 73,581 officers and 112,000 ratings is in biannual wage negotiations with the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) that will likely set an industry benchmark.

Imec is partnered in the talks by the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG), which includes employer representatives from Japan, South Korea and Denmark and in total covers around 50% of seafarers. The talks are being held under the International Bargaining Forum (IBF).

Imec chairman Ian Sherwood says that despite a rally in rates in some sectors and continued shortage of senior officers, the organisation will hold firm on its call for a reduction in wages ahead of a final meeting in Manila in October.

He said: "The JNG position for a 10% reduction in the ITF model ship as a starting point is still on the table." Sherwood admits that the shortage of officers has seen a "huge increase in wages" over recent years and that there is still a shortage in the market but adds that reductions could be secured with downward pressure on wages for ratings.

"It should be possible to achieve a 10% decrease easily without affecting the wages of key employees," he said. Market rates for officers are currently well above that of the IBF model ship.

Incoming Imec general-secretary Giles Heimann, who is set to take over from David Dearsley, says it is "too early" to determine if an agreement can be scored at the Manila meeting. The current ITF agreement runs out in January 2010.

So far, wages have been set at levels that account for other factors. Among the other issues included in the wage negotiations is a special levy to subsidise the employment of ratings from developed countries.

However, because shipowners insist there is no wage increase in prospect, it is proving difficult to include measures such as this in an overall wage agreement, a factor further delaying a resolution.
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